Since I noticed several times that people with whom I speak, despite my articles, are not clear about what “being present” or “being aware” should contain, I will try with three quotes from Eckhart Tolle, who has introduced my husband and me to both terms. He uses mostly the term “being present”, yet “being aware” or even “being awake, alert, attentive” can be used synonymous.
The three books “the Power of Now, “Practicing the Power of Now” and “A New Earth”, which can also be found as a pdf-documents, contain a lot of detailed descriptions of the practice and the state of “being present”. I pay also for the membership on his homepage, where I regularly listen to his wonderful meditations and suggestions about “being present”, even if I am already familiar with the phenomenon. And yet, doing it together with another, present person only increases the joy of self-discovery and of consciously abiding in the present moment.
The quotes on “Being Present” from Eckhart Tolle:
“There are two dimensions to who you are. The first is what I sometimes call the “surface I”—the person with a past and a future. This is your historical identity, which is relatively fragile because the past and future only exist as thought forms or concepts in the mind. Most people on the planet are completely identified with the “surface I.“
The second dimension to who you are is what I like to call the “Deep I.” The most vital realization in your lifetime is to see that in addition to being a historical person or a “surface I,” you are more fundamentally the “Deep I.” This realization frees you from looking only to the “surface I” for your ultimate sense of identity—where it can never be found. It frees you from the frustrating sense that there’s always something missing or not quite right in life.
So, how do you realize it? You realize it in the gap between two thoughts, the space in which the historical person of the “surface I” momentarily subsides and disappears. What’s left of you is nothing that you could talk about or even understand conceptually. All you know is there is an underlying sense of presence, of being-ness, that is at once still, alert, and vitally alive. This is what it means to become aware of awareness. The practice is to invite moments of presence into your daily life so that you don’t spend your entire day dragged along by the stream of thought in the mind.
It’s important to recognize that the “surface I” and the “Deep I” are ultimately not separate. The “surface I” is a manifestation of consciousness in the same way that the ripple on the surface of the ocean is a manifestation of the ocean. It’s only when the ripple is unaware that it is the ocean that a sense of separateness arises—which of course is an illusion.
This realization of yourself as the “Deep I” is so freeing, so liberating, because you’re being liberated from the burden of knowing yourself only as the “surface I” and its so-called “drama.” When you realize yourself as the “Deep I,” it enables you to have a compassionate attitude toward everything that makes up the “surface I”—your physical form, your personal identity (or the historical person), the thoughts and emotions you experience, and so on. It also gives you access to true creativity and true intelligence—both of which are rooted in the formless dimension.
So, welcome moments of quiet and stillness into your life whenever you can. It doesn’t have to be for an hour; even a few minutes throughout the day to step out of thinking and sense yourself as the “Deep I” is enough. Over time you will live more and more continuously with an awareness of the “Deep I” in the background of your life, so to speak. And you will find it easier to maintain this awareness even when challenges arise.”
“When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream — a gap of “no-mind”. At first, the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur, you feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. This is the beginning of your natural state of felt oneness with Being, which is usually obscured by the mind. With practice, the sense of stillness and peace will deepen. In fact, there is no end to it’s depth. You will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising from deep within: the joy of Being.”
“In your everyday life, you can practice this by taking any routine activity that normally is only a means to an end and giving it your fullest attention, so that it becomes an end in itself. For example, every time you walk up and down the stairs in your house or place of work, pay close attention to every step, every movement, even your breathing. Be totally present. Or when you wash your hands, pay attention to all the sense perceptions associated with the activity: the sound and feel of the water, the movement of your hands, the scent of the soap, and so on. Or when you get into your car, after you close the door, pause for a few seconds and observe the flow of your breath. Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence. There is one certain criterion by which you can measure your success in this practice: the degree of peace that you fell within.”